Tuesday, August 9, 2011

John Mason Neale (1818-1866)

Blessed John Mason Neale packed a lot of living into less than 50 years of life! A priest, scholar, poet, translator, compiler, hymnodist, humanitarian for the plight of disadvantaged women and girls, and founder of a religious order, the Sisters of St. Margaret, Neale was born in London. In his short life he did more than any other person to make the rich heritage of Greek and Latin hymns available to his own and succeeding generations.

Among his works are Medieval Hymns and Sequences, Hymns of the Eastern Church, Liturgiology and Church History, and a 4-volume commentary on the Psalms. His hymn compositions include The Day of Resurrection, All Glory, Laud and Honor, and Art Thou Weary? 

Along with Alexander Hope and Benjamin Webb, Neale formed the Camden Society in 1839, later known as the Ecclesiological Society. They believed that by using Church reform in conjunction with the piety of Gothic architecture, England might recapture the religious perfection of the Middle Ages. In one of the society’s early letters, they say: “We know that [medieval] Catholick ethics gave rise to Catholick architecture; may we not hope that, by a kind of reversed process, association with Catholick architecture will give rise to Catholick ethics?” The Ecclesiologists earnestly believed that medieval people were “more spiritually-minded and less worldly-minded” than those of the modern world, and that it was their duty to help return England to its former piety.

John Mason Neale died at age 48 on the feast of the Transfiguration in 1866.

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